South African Journal of Philosophy

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Shame and Silence

BB Janz


Samantha Vice’s proposal on how to live in ‘this strange place’ of contemporary South Africa, includes an appeal to the concepts of shame and silence. In this paper, I use Emmanuel Levinas and Giorgio Agamben to move the discussion of shame from a moral to an existential question. The issue is not about how one should feel, but about the kind of self that whiteness in South Africa makes possible today. Shame desubjectifies. Vice’s recommendation of silence is then taken as witnessing/listening, which I argue grounds the possibility of a recovery of the self.

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